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Lillington Residents Victims of Theft Totalling to Thousands of Dollars

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LILLINGTON — Every family has something special to pass down to future generations -- the kind of stuff that is often priceless for its sentimental value, and in Lillington, at least, worth enough to attract thieves.

Tom Cooley was married for 42 years before his wife died. Together, they collected sterling silver and porcelain dolls with dreams of passing them along to future generations.

"It was just things that you can't replace that don't make the silver anymore," Cooley said. "You'd like to keep them for keepsakes -- they have a lot of sentimental value."

The week before Christmas, his dream shattered. Thousands of dollars worth of silver and dolls was stolen from his home.

He was not the only victim. Others around town reported thefts of professional tools and gold coins.

Police arrested 34-year-old Michael Butts. They say he was stealing the tools to sell on the street and taking the silver to sell for top-dollar.

Lillington police chief Tim Hayworth said more than $20 thousand of the antiques were found at Beasley's Auction House in Dunn -- recovered just days before they would be taken away by the highest bidder.

"He could sell it knowing people were going to come in -- knowing it was antique, very old -- people go looking for that, and the value, to him would be increased because he could get more out of an auction house than out of a pawn shop," Hayworth said.

Hayworth says there is no way to know what has already been sold.

The auctioneer at Beasley's said the suspect told him the items were part of a divorce settlement. Hayworth said it was part of the suspect's plan to steal other people's cherished memories.

Butts is out of jail on $30 thousand bond, and police say he is a suspect in several other thefts in Lillington, as well as in other parts of Harnett County.


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